My Books & Stories (Amazon Page)

Friday, November 07, 2014

Rising Early & Killing Time

I haven't always been an early riser, but the last few years I've made a habit of rising by at least 5:30am in order to get to work by 7am. Usually I'm awake sometime around 4am though. This gives me several hours to kill until I have to actually work on stuff for my day job. One of the things I've found I really enjoy is doing 3D art. I used to fumble around with a Japanese 3D program called DoGa, and then moved to Moray and POV-Ray. Lately though, I've been using Sketchup 8 (from Google and now Trimble) and learning SolidWorks. Sketchup is an extremely flexible and, in my opinion, powerful program and the extensions and sheer number of models available through the Extensions and 3D Warehouses truly expand the power and flexibility of Sketchup. I've been using it to do 3D models for machine setups at my day job. A 3D model is much more informative than a simple line drawing done in Word (which is how the setups were illustrated for years before now). I do the models in Sketchup and then render them using the POV-Ray plugin. Here's an example,
This is an example of a cylinder body being machined in APSCO's (Air Power Supply Company - my day job) HCN4000 horizontal mill. I also use Sketchup for concept images for my writing and I do 3D modeling as a form of relaxation and meditation (I guess you could say). Here's an image I did for the Fire On The Suns universe and which is my current screen background at work,
And finally here's an image I did using DoGa way back in the day,
The background here was done using a program called Universe. The background for the image just above this one was done using the Galaxy include file for POV-Ray. Universe is handy for doing planet images and backgrounds including planets, but I've found it more useful for lens flares, stars, and explosive effects in images (done using a combination of lens flares and stars - it gives a battle image a really dramatic effect). So, that's one way I kill time and "meditate" in addition to writing. Thanks, Greg

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

More FOTS Grand Tactical

I haven't written anything for the blog in awhile as I've been busy at work (I do tech writing for a manufacturing company in Tulsa, OK) and publishing a new ezine for Fire On The Suns titled "Firepower! The Journal of the Fire On The Suns Universe". Our next issue is going to be over 15 thousand words for just $0.99 and will be available via Smashwords hopefully by Thanksgiving. Anyway, as my last post had to do with FOTS Tactical Command and the grand strategic scale, I thought I'd offer up a little teaser for doing vector-based movement the FOTS way. I know it's not entirely a hundred percent accurate physically, but this map was easily done using Excel.
You could just as easily plot the same thing out on a sheet of graph paper or even a hex map (I really like the old Starfire system hex maps as you can have a really huge playing area). This plot, btw, is the last phase of the ending battle in my novel Fire On The Suns and was a lot of fun to plot out. The nice thing about using Excel is that you can easily copy and paste the current map to another page in the workbook and keep every turn together in the same workbook. The standard number of worksheets allowed in a workbook is 255, but you can continue adding additional sheets until you run out of system resources. That is an awful lot of worksheets potentially (heck, even 255 worksheets, each representing a single turn of a game, is an awful lot of game potential). This means that a GM for a game like Starfire, for example, could pass a workbook back and forth between players, possibly rolling for who has the initiative each turn in an IGO-UGO fashion. And, since the FOTS system scales from light hours down to whatever scale you want it's easy to see how this could work for grand tactical maneuvering right down to close-in combat passes. There will be additional information included in the coming issue of Firepower! as well as upcoming issues as they get published. Have fun playing around with this if you've a mind to. Thanks, Greg

Thursday, April 17, 2014

FOTS Grand Tactical

Reworking the grand tactical scale for my game Fire On The Suns. This one will use a grid system similar to the one used in the strategic system. I've had a hex-based system in place for years using a hex map image superimposed on an Excel spreadsheet, but it always seemed just a bit "off". Both system use vector-based movement (in 2D), but the hex map isn't really user-friendly in Excel. I've got the grid coordinates laid out, the light hour boundaries established (1, 2, and 3), and the grid coordinate and movement system established including a handy movement utility that appears to function. The hex-based system sometimes got clunky and confusing when plotting vectors and calculating when things would be detected at up to 6 light hour ranges (60 hexes or in the new version grid squares of 6 light minutes each). Also, the hex-based system just seemed to take some of the drama out of writing about the battles in the first FOTS novel. I'm hoping something like, "Enemy drive flares detected. Grid Six, bearing zero nine eight. Range three light hours" will be a little more exciting. Of course, just because the enemy might have appeared in grid 6 and 3 light hours away does not, in any case, mean they're still there. Depending on one's position in the system they could be anywhere up to 6 hours movement (about 72 light minutes for most starships - or 12 grid squares) away from that position in any direction when you detect them. Very, very few starships in FOTS can hide from anybody bothering to watch for them (and the ones that can usually use deception or trickery to do so). Those drive flares are very bright and the ships themselves are not exactly "quiet" (glowing hot in the infrared from their environmental systems at the very least). Given the scale it might _just_ be possible to watch every grid square along the 3 light hour boundary where most ships can warp into a system (there'd be 3600 of them (60x60), but that's an awful lot of watch stations to try to build and manage plus by the time you spot them there's a good chance they're already light seconds to light minutes away from where they were when detection occurred. What this will do, however, is establish a fairly easy and comfortably manageable and, I hope, intuitive system for managing combat between fleets at the grand tactical scale. The FOTS Battle Engine can handle all the tactical stuff when fleets actually come to blows.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Trials Of A GM

A friend of mine recently decided to bow out of a game he'd invested a lot of time and effort in because the GM rescinded a decision he'd made. I've been in that position more than once so I understand where he's coming from, and, to be frank, the GM in this case, is in the wrong. A GM runs a game. He plans it. He plots it. He wrangles the players, balances forces, creates the NPCs and sets them loose in the world. He creates the background. He writes the storyline. But once the game is underway the GM cannot, and should not, dictate all possible avenues of game play for every player - especially in a non-video 4X game of the free-form style I'm talking about here. The GM, just like a writer, has to be flexible enough to allow his players and his characters to "go with the flow" of the storyline he has set in place. He (or she so as not to be too sexist here) can set up cut-scenes, scenes which must happen within the game, and has an extraordinary amount of flexibility when it ccmes to creating new scenes that have to happen within a game. But a GM should never, ever, in my not so humble opinion, ever dictate that certain things cannot happen within the context of an open-ended or even closed-ended game. This is a path toward chaos and players quitting because they cannot do what they believe will advance their own agenda in the game. Now, the GM has a certain ability to influence the course of his game - indeed, he has perhaps ultimate power in that regard - but to simply erase a player's ability to do what they want, to backtrack or sidestep the GM's storyline, to deviate from that storyline, is to alienate players in that game and to leave egg on the face of the GM in that regard. Other players are going to reconsider whether or not they want to play in that GM's games again because of such heavy-handedness, plus potential players who are considering juping in may not be enticed in the future into doing so. And that affects all the GMs in a game - not just that one. I've stayed out of the argument thus far, but I can see a thousand ways this particular GM might have been able to wrangle the player's decision(s) in-game to better his storyline. The same, I believe, hold true for writing. When a character simply will not hold true to the plot, it's not generally a good idea to force them to toe the line. In fact, because characters have a habit of going off on their own and ding their own thing if a plot is decent enough, sometimes the story can come out better than the GM/writer ever thought it could. When players make their own decisions about their characters and their worlds and their empires - that's the player thinking for the GM/writer. Give them their head, let them have free rein. But be prepared to throw your own or a different monkey wrnech in their path along their way. Let them live and die on their own. Only that way will your characters become truly human and truly memorable. And maybe, just maybe along the way you'll have more story than you ever thought possible. Thanks, Greg

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Seizing Control

Just a short post this afternoon (maybe more later) to say I'm back and seizing control of this blog back from the Viagra and whatnot spammers. I'll be making more frequent posts from now on and I'm going to invite a few people from the FOTS (Fire On The Suns) community to post occasionally as well. Had to figure out how to break back in to my own blog if you can believe that one. Still in Tulsa, OK area, still working for APSCO, Inc. as their Tech Writer and Document Controller. Still writing (just finished the outline for Fire On The Suns: A Storm Upon The Deep and started writing the first part of the book last night - it should reach 80 thousand words, maybe a bit more or less, by the end). Thanks, Greg